Observing nature, especially in a desert environment, requires cautious peering under scrub oak and cholla. It’s always wise to gently part the razor sharp leaves of plants like beargrass and banana yucca with a long stick. Everything seems well armed with spines, thorns or prickles. But look you must, because you never know what you might find cooling off in the shade of a big leafed buffalo gourd or making a noon meal of a prickly pear fruit in the shadows of fan-shaped pads.
But when exploring it’s wise to always, always remember you might be surprised by a snake. So imagine our relief and delight when on a stretch of dusty trail we encountered our very first desert box turtle!
“From the spillway below Cochiti Dam to the headwaters of Elephant Butte Reservoir, the Middle Rio Grande Bosque is more than a cottonwood woodland or forest. It is a whole riparian (or riverside) ecosystem…..”
This is how “A Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque”1 begins, and on June 26th, the Master Naturalists’ trainees spent quality time touring and learning about the nature of this very special area.
Yay! After waiting out Covid for 2 years, Bernalillo County (Albuquerque) is once again holding classes for Master Naturalist certification! Both Roy and I applied and were accepted into the program along with 20 other students of all ages and backgrounds.
Many of the classes are being held via Zoom meetings. But thanks to scheduled field trips we are getting to know each other while learning some cool stuff, including a visit to The Tijeras Creek Remediation Project, in our home town. We never realized!
Sometimes when hiking familiar trails, it’s easy to get lost in thought. Just being outdoors is very meditative, don’t you think? My mind wanders and it seems my head is high in the clouds, or at the very least I find myself looking up to marvel at that seemingly endless New Mexico blue sky. After all, my boots know where all the foot-tripping rocks are, and autopilot kicks in until ……
Out of the corner of my eye, a slight movement. A small stone gets pushed aside by the wary approach of a snake! Now’s not the time for daydreaming. It’s time to pay close attention to each footfall, because Spring in New Mexico has woken up all the slithering, crawling and buzzing wildlife and they are back at work.
In what seems like a few short days, our New Mexico landscape is rapidy transforming from the crisp and crunchy brown leaves of winter to hints of spring green everywhere! Of course with the promise of spring comes the inevitable dust storm of juniper and pine pollen being whisked along by strong seasonal winds, but sneezing and the sniffles are a small price to pay. I’m prepared to welcome spring with open arms (albeit armed with a box of tissues).